Tonight I cooked steaks for dinner, took a bath (remember on Friends … the one where Chandler takes a Bath), and watched a movie in bed with my wife. Really, could life get any better? I submit that it could not.
I’m trying to live life on the elevator.
Elevators are automated devises that carry you upward (and maybe downward once they have already delivered you to your prior point of interest).
Once on the elevator, you don’t really do anything to move, except possibly press a button. Upon pressing the previously mentioned button, you are hurled seamlessly in an upward direction with a distinct amount of force, thrusting you in the aforementioned upward direction.
Jesus is an elevator.
He does the work to take my life beyond what it is normally.
Grace is extended with each floor that is passed, with each victory that is won.
So … I’m trying to live life in the elevator.
So, this morning I decided to make a breakfast stop. It’s a rarity. I don’t normally want breakfast. I don’t like to eat before 11 o’clock normally. Morning food is too much … I’m trying to wake up. Give me some coffee and some water and kick in the butt. But this morning McDonald’s beckoned … those golden arches calling me heavenward to the land of everything “Mc-” (McGriddles, McChicken, McRib, etc).
I ordered. When I make these runs to the various breakfast establishments along my path to work, I normally order a biscuit for said friend at work who keeps up with attendance and puts up with me. I again followed said procedure for procuring said biscuit. Along with other pastries and breakfast items that I felt inclined to devour this morning. Yes. It was to be a feast of gluttonous proportions. I was excited and scared all at the same time. A feeling of awe is what I felt, really. I was about to eat so much delectable goodness that I may have very well exploded.
But, I forgot my wallet. I discovered this after ordering and pulling up. You know, the typical drive-thru morning ritual.
Did I mention I was running late this morning? I must have forgotten two things – my belt and my wallet. I did remember my iPod, though, to which my auditory sensory organs were very much pleased. I need my belt, because my pants, for the most part, are too small, and I can get by with unbuttoning them and wearing a belt to hold it all together. I have lost weight recently, so this is, at the moment, less tragic that it could be. Like most guys, my wallet holds every thing I need to function. It’s like a miniature survivor package. Without it, I am impotent and lost.
After realizing that I had left said “miniature survivor package” at home, I swung my car around into a parking space and walked up to the drive-thru window. I must admit: my first instinct was just to run away. To speed down the road to work, where I was already late. I, however, found the strength and courage to approach the cashier / manager combo of personnel that were stationed in the window to confess my inadequacy in purchasing power. I explained the issue, with great sorrow, as I felt breakfast feast slipping away and emptiness/embarrassment entering my emotional substance.
The manager smiled at me.
At first I mistook this as a “What a dumb @$$” type smile. But, his face softened, somehow relieving my tension, and he said “Well, Sir, then today it’s on us. Just get back in your car, and I’ll bring the food out to you.”
I had no words. Well, except “thank you”. And those words really didn’t fit there. They were grossly inadequate.
The manager delivered the goods. I thanked him again, and off I went to work, ridiculously late.
I knew that I had received GREAT customer service at that moment. There was something about that moment that spoke louder than that. It was more than customer service. There was something about ME involved in all of that.
I had nothing. I got everything I asked for. I paid nothing. It was all on the house. I didn’t deserve it. I deserved to be hungry.
I realize now that, for some reason, I felt valued as a person, not as a customer in that interchange. And that, that stuck with me.
Some time ago I came to Jesus, with a large request. I was corrupt and selfish and addicted. I made a large request that He walk me through to freedom, that He destroy the selfishness and corruption that had infected me thoroughly. I had nothing to offer Him, nothing but my sin. He took that. And even though I didn’t pay the price, I was offered wholeness and freedom.
Forget that for my entire life I had consciously chosen to be addicted. I had made the choices to feed my selfishness. I had overtly ran from His forgiveness and freedom.
I deserved captivity. I deserved pain. I deserved death. I didn’t get what I deserved.
This morning I was reminded that Jesus doesn’t treat me like a customer. I didn’t buy into the historic faith tradition like buying into a franchise. He treated me with love. And with love He showed me that I am person, a person who has dignity and value. That I was the object.
As you look at this Jesus, I pray that you see a Jesus who loves you, not because you’re a customer buying into His teachings, but because you’re a beautiful and wonderful person that He created to be an object of His affection.
So live today. Really live. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass, even if it’s a small patch outside the office where you work. Give a sandwich to a homeless man, even if he already has one. Take one minute and breathe, don’t think, just breathe, and let the air fill you with awe. Listen to one of you favorite songs from some long time ago in life, and be reminded of who you were and how far you’ve came. Draw a picture on a napkin. Over-tip a waitress. Write a friend a note to let them know how much you love them. Live. Truly live. Because, today, really, it’s all on Jesus.
As I drove to work this morning I passed by a little boy going to work with his mother. He was sitting next to her in the front seat as they cruised down the interstate toward their destination. He was staring in wonder at the other cars on the highway, especially the tractor-trailer trucks. He was simply in awe.
This little boy wasn’t satisfied with just watching, he wanted to encounter the trucks, so he was making motions directed at the drivers of such trucks. I’m sure you’re familiar with these motions. I did them when I was little. Most of us did. Let’s repeat the motions. Take your right arm and form a right angle at the elbow with your hand facing the sky. You must have the correct hand posture in this motion; nothing less than a fist would do. To begin the motion, maintaining the angle at the elbow, pump your fist up and down violently and repeatedly.
Apparently this motion summons a sound.
The sound of the horn.
The sound of the horn is a coveted sound when you are five years old. Especially the sound of a large motor vehicle.
I sat watching this young boy repeatedly, and without success, pump his fist at the large trucks that passed his mother’s car. He was pouring affection and energy out on these large motor-driven contraptions, entranced to somehow provoke a response.
He forgot something. Maybe he didn’t realize it. Maybe he did, but he just didn’t care:
The car he was driving in had a horn.
Yes, three feet away from where this five year-old boy sat was a button that was controlled by his mother that fired their very own horn. All he has need to do is ask, and there would sound the horn.
Forget they were driving a small, white station wagon[i]. Forget that tractor-tailor trucks are second only to Jesus when you’re five. Forget all that. His mother controlled a horn, and for some reason, that wasn’t enough. His affection was being poured out on those who were oblivious to him.
I feel a little bit like the boy.
We all make a journey in life. And we’re all making it in some version of our own small, white station wagon. I find myself way too captivated by what appears to me to be large tractor-tailor trucks making the journey around me. And all too often, I find myself pouring out my affection on them.
Really, affection is quite a commodity isn’t it? A highly coveted commodity by God, himself. Jesus longs to be the central object of our affection.
And yet, I realize that my affection is often spent in manipulative ways. I spend it in other places somehow hoping that if I pump my fist long enough and hard enough, that those other trucks might blow their horn back at me.
My affection has become a commodity spent to get something in return.
That’s pretty sick.
A favorite writer of mine once said that love is not economic[ii]. You don’t spend affection expecting to get something in return. That’s manipulation.
Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in all of scripture was[iii]. There were a lot to choose from. Some say He had command of thousands of different scriptural commands to pull up at that point.
Jesus simply responded with “Love the Lord with all your heart”. He tacked on a second one “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Then Jesus concluded his answer with two different responses “all the law and the prophets hinge on these two commandments” and “do this and you will live”.
Now, we are obviously called to love our neighbor. No doubt about that. But, what does Jesus begin this answer with? “Love the Lord”. Loving God is primary command of the God of the Bible.
To live we have to love who is inside the car first.
Jesus highlights a significant truth in His answer: that how we distribute our affection affects every facet of life. When God is not the primary recipient of our affection, then we are not really alive. When are not making Jesus our central affection, every other relationship becomes infected.
Let’s not forget that we are journeying with the Lord in our car. To begin to live, to really live and not just breathe, we need to start looking at Him and letting Him be the central object of our affection.
Too often I feel like my affection has been spilled out of the window towards what appears to be a tractor-trailer truck journeying somewhere near me. Too often Jesus has exactly what I’m hoping to get from them.
I think God wants to take a road trip with us.
The best road trips I took in college were incredible, not because of where we went, but because of who was in the car. During those road trips, my friends and I loved each other through the journey. We laughed, slept, and ate in the car and it was beautiful.
It was life.
And life begins when we realize that our car has horn, that all that we’ve longed for and needed can be found three feet away in the other seat.
That’s real life.
When everything around me sucks I like to think about Jesus. When I’m not so consumed with the things around me that are sucking, I normally like to think about Starbucks or video games or some new album I purchased or something I have to do or somewhere I want to be. Some times things suck, and some times the sucking is relegated for another moment. When life sucks, well … it sucks. I should know, I am a connoisseur of things that suck (I stole that term from a friend, but I like it so I’m making it mine).
I have been reading a bit of the brilliance left in the wake of C.S. Lewis. Lewis is brilliant. Brilliant enough to write a book that made it to the top 100 books of all time, as listed by TIME magazine. Brilliant enough that that book was a children’s book. Lewis has been talking to me about heaven. Did I tell you he’s pretty smart? Well he is.
I think we need to think about heaven more during Christmas time. It’s amazing that this portion of the year dedicated to celebrating Jesus distracts us from anticipating our reunion with him.
This morning I logged on to my favorite “stuff” website to see that the little guy on the homepage had a “photoshopped” santa hat on. I regret to inform you that holiday shopping season is upon us.
On my morning drive to work I go past a Best Buy Electronic Store. Tonight atmidnight the stores are selling the PlayStation 3 for almost 500.00 or more. There were about fifty people camped outside to get one. In the rain. It was such a brilliant display of materialism.
I want a PS3, but back to my conversation with Lewis this morning.
Lewis was talking about chocolates this morning. It was funny actually. A bit perverted too. He was really talking about sex and chocolates (I just realized I can’t spell chocolates very well, it brings up the spell check every time). Lewis was English. I guess they talk about sex and chocolates more than we do in the “colonies”.
Lewis said that if you told a child that greatest thrill in life was sex, he would ask you “Do you get to eat chocolates with that?” Then Lewis said if you said “No, you don’t even think of chocolates when you’re having sex” then the child would walk away thinking that “sex cannot possibly be the greatest thrill in life if it doesn’t involve chocolates.” (reference a)
Did I tell you that Lewis was brilliant? He still is, even though that seems incredibly perverted.
We only know what we know. We approach everything with some sort of background knowledge. See, if I was talking to you about the Cathedral of St. Kilian you may have an appreciation for my words and the imagery that I could convey as we talk, but you most likely would not have stood atop the mountain in that ancient church that overlooks Wurzburg, Germany. I was blessed to go there, twice, and I can tell you that those moments cannot be expressed completely through language. They were beautiful and sacred and meaningful.
When God talks to us about the life that he wants us to live that, too, is something that is so foreign to us that we walk away with appreciation, but often with sincere questions that say “life without that cannot possibly be the best life for me to live”.
When God mentions heaven, eternity in the presence of God and His Son, we like to think of it in Hollywood language, because we understand mansions and gold and diamonds and crowns. Yes, we understand more stuff. Heaven for most believers can be consummated with this: “We win and we get the most stuff”. I don’t think we get more stuff in the end.
Lewis said something the other day is thought was pretty cool. He was talking about heaven and the lives that we lead on earth. We all use our life as a template for what it will be like in heaven, just a lot better. Lewis said he thinks when stand in the full glory of the eternal presence of God that somehow this life and this earth most likely will seem like some form of hell. I think he’s right. (reference b)
Some times we get small glimpses into exactly how broken our lives are and how whole and complete God is. I think Lewis sees that, even if he can be a bit perverted.
In a book of the bible called Romans (in Chapter 8), the writer, a guy named Paul, talks about how much this world sucked after sin entered it and how there is a longing within us to return to wholeness of our created intentions. (reference c)
I guess it’s on those days when everything sucks relentlessly that we are reminded that this world is not enough.
This holiday season you will have a few moments that suck. Count on it.
Perhaps you will get that lime green sweatshirt with “St. Paul Minnesota” written on the front that you’ve always wanted from your grandmother. It might be worse. You might get a fruitcake (I think I’m the only person alive who thinks fruitcake is good gift material). Or it could be a real tragedy. Some of the people you love will spend their first Christmas without their father, their mother, or someone they care deeply about.
When those moments come, realize that you are eating chocolate. That you live in a world and lead a life that, no matter how hard we struggle, is a faint glimmer of the world and life that we are destined to in Christ as His follower.
One day we will see clearly. One day we will be revealed. Until then, we eat chocolates.
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Reference A – C.S. Lewis “The Great Divorce” Preface.
Reference B – C.S. Lewis “Miracles”
Reference C – Romans 8:19-23